As Kiwis continue to adapt to isolating at home, our once healthy and familiar food habits can easily be thrown out of the window. With no shortages of snacks around the home and a new routine to navigate, it can be difficult to find the daily willpower to stop yourself from making hourly trips to the fridge and sticking to a structured eating plan. Not only can this have an unwanted effect on our bodies, but we also run the risk of seeing knock-on effects on our moods too.
There are tried and tested measures that can be put in place to ensure that you are giving your body the right food at the right time, without depriving yourself of the foods you love.
Dr Michelle Celander, Program and Science Director at WW (formerly Weight Watchers) shares her top tips to ensure that all this time spent at home doesn’t mean losing your healthy routine.
1. Structure your mealtime. Setting up a routine can be challenging if you’re spending more time at home. Try to create some structure with your meal and snack times each day and stick to it. This will help limit the temptation to graze mindlessly throughout the day.
2. Minimise distractions. Research shows you’re more likely to overeat if you’re distracted. This is because you’re not focusing on how much, or the pace at which, you’re eating and are therefore more likely to overeat. Minimise distractions by turning off the TV or putting your phone down, and eating at the dinner table rather than in front of the computer or in the car. Practice mindful eating by focusing on the taste, texture and sensations of each mouthful and putting your cutlery down in between each bite.
3. Let your hunger signals guide you. Ask yourself before you reach for food- are you truly hungry or are you turning to food for another reason like boredom or stress? It’s important to focus on recognising hunger and fullness signals and start to identify when you’re eating is influenced by other things like emotions. Getting back in touch with your body's signals will help you stay on track to build healthy habits for long term success.
4. Add more fruit and veg. Help boost your immunity by including a range of different fruits and veggies in your main meals and snacks each day. Look to include a serve of fruit and veggies at breakfast, fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies at lunch and dinner, and pair fruit with yoghurt or veggie sticks with hummus as a filling and nutritious snack.
5. Meal prep for success. Planning ahead is the key to having something nutritious on hand when hunger strikes. When you do the grocery shop, spend some time first thing when you get home cutting fruit and veggies into snack-size pieces. You could also leave a bowl of fresh fruit on the bench so it’s the first thing you see when you head to the kitchen for a snack. If lunchtime is challenging cause you’re time-poor, look to batch cook veggies and lean protein (hello slow cooker season!) on the weekends so all you have to do is reheat them each day for lunch.
6. Manage your portions. Managing the portion size of certain foods can make a big difference. For example, buy mini or fun-size versions of your favourite sweet snacks or reduce the amount of oil added to your meals when cooking by using an oil spray.
7. Look for smart swaps. You don’t need to overhaul everything you enjoy eating. It’s all about making small swaps here and there to gradually improve your eating habits over time. Look for healthier alternatives to your favourite foods that are still just as satisfying. For example, air-popped popcorn is a great alternative to chips for a salty snack. Homemade burgers and pizza can be just as delicious when made with lean meat and low-fat cheese.